Wednesday, July 9, 2014


The Chanel Super Marche 

When Karl Lagerfeld puts his mind to something, it appears anything is possible. Guests to the Chanel Autumn/Winter 2014 Ready-to-Wear show in Paris entered the city's Grande Palais with a sense of wondrous trepidation; what could Chanel possible have to do with the loud, brightly coloured supermarket scene laid out before them? With its shopping trolleys, cheese stall, hardware section, boxes of tea and bottles of wine (all with Chanel inspired names), how could it possibly be fashion or fashionable? How could a supermarket be as glamorous, luxurious and as classic as Chanel?

I don’t know how, but all I know is it can, thanks to Mr. Lagerfeld.

What do you wear when you go to the supermarket? For me, it’s as casual as I am game to be; the poor checkout boys & girls have seen me in everything from full makeup and a party dress to quite literally having been awake five minutes, in my tacky pants and forgotten to brush my hair. But for the Chanel designer, going to the supermarket is a luxe, playful, colourful and all around fun experience.

The entire Grande Palais was decked out to resemble a WallMart-esque supermarket, complete with trolleys and aisles and food. The food packaging all bore names that somehow related to the brand such as:

  • Paris Dallas Ketchup” - a hint at the future Paris-Dallas Chanel line
  • Boite A Bobos De Coco” - a first aid kit named after the fashion house’s infamous founder, Coco Chanel
  • Delices de Gabrielle”  - a can of fish (caviar maybe? Or tuna?) using Coco’s first name, Gabrielle
  • Charmbonany” - Camembert Cheese named for the street where Coco once worked  and where a Chanel store still resides
  • Little Black Tea” – named after Coco’s classic little black dresses
  • Lait de Coco” – literally means coconut milk, but is obviously a play on Coco’s name again
  • Mademoiselle Prive” doormats – doormats emblazoned with the same phrase Coco had on her door
  • Elsa’s Black Rice – Forbidden to Great Couturiers” – hints at the rivalry and feud between Coco and another infamous designer of her time, Elsa Schiaparelli. 
  • "Jambon Cambon" - ham named after the location of the quintessential Chanel store: 31 Rue Cambon

There were also toiletries named for Boy Capel (Coco’s lover), rubber gloves emblazoned with the camellia logo so frequently associated with Chanel, Chanel bottled water, a fruit stand and even a Chanel chainsaw.  Overhanging signs advertised 20% mark ups, a joke by Lagerfeld I'm sure. These sets went so beyond what almost anyone expects to see at a fashion show, and in my mind this one really will go down in history as one of the most imaginative and innovative runways ever.

With such luscious sets however, it would be easy to imagine that the clothes themselves would be overpowered – don’t be silly! It’s Chanel, darling.

From the moth-holed leggings to vinyl pants, sporty outfits with big coats, classic tweed mixed with a modern twist, tailored tracksuits and the sneakers – yes, that’s right, Chanel sneakers – the show was exuberant and modern, fantastical and edgy. The main themes of the show included neo-corsets that can be unzipped (but really do look like a corset!), textures of vinyl, metallic and wool, leggings, oversized coats and reimagined versions of the classic tweed. The New York Times described the collection as “sporty”, “merry” and “fabulous”. Most of the models were also equipped with a Chanel chain-link handle basket, designed to look just like those at the supermarket using the straps of a Chanel handbag! After completing a round on the elaborate (and huge) runway circuit, the models returned to do a little shopping. They quite literally walked around and placed certain items in their chain-link baskets as you would at the regular shops, filling them to the brim with wonderful Chanel-esque goodies before making their way to the "checkout".

This collection was certainly original, if not a little bizarre in places. Those chain-link baskets could actually be bought, as could the classic Chanel flap bag wrapped up in cellophane and looking (slightly disturbingly) like a packet of meat (left)! But first let me talk to you about the shoes…

Oh, the shoes. Chanel does great shoes and therefore its no wonder they do great sneakers as well. From short sneakers in wonderful pastels, clashing colours and holographic leather to the knee highed sneakers, ah! Be still my shoe obsessed heart. For those who believed the classic Chanel would never deign to design something as common place as sneakers well then, you were really quite incorrect this time.

The bags of this collection were…kooky, I suppose is the best way. There was a Chanel wheelie-bag, the sort you usually see school teachers with grading papers and heavy texts or old ladies pushing. There was the usual flap-bag of course, but there was also the curious new version of it in foldable form, which I had to admit I loved! Kind of like unfolding the bag itself. There were bags shaped like milk cartons labeled “Lait de Coco” and a clutch that could (quite probably literally) double as a jewelry box and clutch. There were two new versions of the Le Boy bag (which is still one of my favorite Chanel bags ever), some triangle bags, fluffy, oversized clutches and the Chanel-shopping-bag-inspired-leather-totes I also covet madly.

The jewelry of this collection was on a similar chain of thought to the bags – kooky is a good word for them. There were the expected pearls of course, but there were also pearls spilling out of tuna-can like pendants, heavy bangles emblazoned with the double C’s, cuffs that resembled a tin can and (my favorite) a range of jewelry that looked like that candy necklaces you had as a kid!

At the end of the show, when all the models had finished their shopping, something unheard in runway show history was heard: “Dear Valued Customer, the Chanel store is now closing. Please feel free to pick up your complimentary fruit and vegetables as you leave.” Naturally, it was a riot. Some 3400 people swarmed towards the aisles of supermarket just like the Christmas sales. Fashion bloggers scrambled over buyers, Anna Dello Russo was seen pushing through the crowd, editors, celebrities and more had fun running along the aisles – it looked like a scene from a horror movies where panicked people were running away from the monster – only this time they were running towards something. But in the end the joke was on them, all non-fruit and veg items were to be returned, with all the remaining sets food to be donated to charity. Still however, several pieces of that set I’m sure went missing…

The question still remains; why a supermarket? Certainly it showed Chanel in a novel environment and I actually have to admit that although some of the clothes were far too luxe, there were actually quite a few things I’d wear to the supermarket.

Some reviewers speculate that the runway was a social parody on our consumerist lifestyles, however seeing as Karl Lagerfeld is a man who has 70 iPods, I don’t think he really had much of a foot in mocking the rest of us for buying things. What I do wonder however, is if he anticipated the chaos that would ensue post-show. There are videos on Instagram about the “riot” and they’re terrifying to watch. Usually demure Chanel clad ladies scrabbled over one another to grab a Chanel “So Chic” broom, reaching and grabbing things simply because they were there and they’d been given the tiniest slip of permission to take – the fact that the allowance didn’t extend to the boxes of tea, cans of tuna, tissue boxes and olive oil seemed to fall on fashionably-deaf ears. I mean, sure, it would have been exciting as hell, but ultimately it’s a pretty sad image to see some of the wealthier individuals who either work in the fashion industry or buy Chanel regularly, climbing over one another for a freebie.  t reminds me eerily of The Bling Ring mind point of wanting something means its okay to take it. It bothers me to say the least and I would really like to know whether Karl had imagined it in such a way or not. Was he being witty? Or was he disgusted as people tried to make off with Chanel feather dusters simply because he’d offered them fruit?

Regardless, Lagerfeld has been renown for his innovative work on fashion runways, taking people not just to a world of fashion but another world entirely. From his Chanel art-gallery (Spring-Summer 2014 RTW) to the beautifully ruin of a building for Haute Couture (Fall-Winter 2013/2014), he has created numerous worlds and merely given us desperate, frantic glances into them.

Fashion is a weapon, use it properly.

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